We have now seen the 5-1 Blues win every way imaginable. On opening night they rolled to a dominating 6-0 win over the Red Wings. They went on the road and fell behind Nashville twice before winning in a shootout. Then after a loss at Chicago the Blues suffocated the Predators here by a 3-0 score. After a dominant second period Saturday in Dallas, the Blues had to hold off the Stars for a 4-3 win. Then on Sunday night at Scottrade Center, the Blues had to rally from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead, and saw Minnesota tie the game before Vladimir Sobotka won it in overtime, 5-4.
With ten points in six games, the Blues have the second best record in the sport behind the unbeaten Blackhawks. We’ll get to the comparisons in a moment, but first let’s dig deeper into these five wins. We knew last year that the Blues were capable of dominance, and that they were resilient. But last year’s Blues didn’t have the scoring depth that this year’s team does.
Kevin Shattenkirk has eight assists from the blue line, and fellow defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is third on the team with seven points in six games. Even newcomer Wade Redden, who would have made most Blues fans happy with two goals all season, has two goals in six games.
Up front, Chris Stewart has rebounded from a disappointing 2011-2012 with four goals in six games this year. Vladamir Tarasenko has been a revelation with his four goals, and his eight points that share the team lead with Shattenkirk. Tarasenko is an absolute shark when he’s on the ice. When he smells blood in the water, he attacks. He’s going to be fun to watch. Patrik Berglund has figured out what he’s capable of in the NHL, and has looked sensational so far. T.J. Oshie is his gritty tough self, and David Perron, Andy McDonald, Alex Steen, Sobotka, and captain David Backes have all contributed offensively so far.
There’s reason to believe that with health, the Blues can do this all year long. Nearly every forward on the team has shown the capability of being a top six player. In fact Matt D’Agostini, who has only been able to get into one game so far, was a 21 goal, 46 point player for the Blues just two years ago. Ryan Reaves and Jamie Langenbrunner are role players at this stage, but bring important attributes. Reaves is a terrific enforcer and handles the role as well as anyone in the league right now. Langenbrunner brings winning experience and accountability that most of a young roster can turn to when times get tough.
In addition to the fact that the Blues can win a blowout or a shootout, they have the most important asset in the league this season; two terrific goaltenders. In this fourteen week season, the Blues will have seven four game weeks. The 48 game season is played in a schedule of 98 days, or a game every 2.04 days. Essentially, the NHL is playing a playoff schedule during the regular season. There’s no way one goalie can handle a 40 game workload and have enough gas left in the tank for the playoffs.
While the Hawks are great, and have terrific scoring depth like the Blues, they only have one reliable goalie. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has split the starts between Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. Joel Quenneville has started Corey Crawford five times for the Hawks, with Ray Emery starting only once. Emery was terrific with the Senators six years ago, but since then has proven to be average at best. Halak and Elliott were both among the top four goaltenders in the NHL last season, and haven’t shown much of a drop-off after the lockout.
Health willing, this can be an extremely special year for Blues fans. They have every necessary attribute to be a Stanley Cup Champ. Now all they need to do is live up to their talent, and they can achieve greatness.